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Iraqi security forces and people inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday. (AP)
Wave of bombings across Iraqi capital kills 57 people, injures nearly 200
BAGHDAD (AP) -- A wave of bombings ripped across Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 57 people and injuring nearly 200 in the worst violence Iraq has seen for months. The bloodbath comes just days after American forces left the country.
The blasts also came on the heels of a political crisis between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions that erupted this weekend. The political spat, which pits Iraq's Shiite prime minister against the highest-ranking Sunni political leader, has raised fears that Iraq's sectarian wounds will be reopened during a fragile time when Iraq is finally navigating its own political future without U.S. military support.
While the string of explosions was likely not a direct response to the political Sunni-Shiite confrontation, it will ratchet up tensions at a time when many Iraqis are already worried about security. If continued, it could lead to the same type of tit-for-tat attacks that characterized the insurgency years ago.
Iraqi officials said at least 14 blasts went off early Thursday morning in 11 neighborhoods around the city. The explosions ranged from blasts from sticky bombs attached to cars to roadside bombs and vehicles packed with explosives. There was at least one suicide bombing among the attacks.
Most of the attacks appeared to hit Shiite neighborhoods although some Sunni areas were also targeted.
Why are they fighting so much? A field guide to Congress' payroll tax cut dispute
WASHINGTON (AP) -- If President Barack Obama, the House and the Senate all want to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut and jobless benefits through next year, why are they fighting so bitterly over doing it?
Obama, House Democrats and lopsided majorities of both parties in the Senate want to immediately renew the tax cut and jobless benefits for the next two months, and find a way later to extend them through 2012. House Republicans want to do it for a full year right away.
That doesn't sound like an unbridgeable gap. Yet the fight has evolved into a year-end partisan grudge match with no clear resolution in sight and with huge political and economic stakes.
Without action, the payroll tax paid by 160 million workers will rise by 2 percentage points to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1. That would mean $1,000 a year less in the pockets of people making $50,000, or about $19 weekly. In addition, 3 million people currently receiving long-term jobless benefits will begin to lose weekly payments that average under $300 -- for many, their only support.
Following is a guided tour, in question and answer form, through the dispute.
Can't you all just get along? Americans grow frustrated by repeated congressional stalemates
CHICAGO (AP) -- As Americans watch yet another political drama play out on Capitol Hill -- this time over whether to extend the payroll tax cut and jobless benefits -- they have a question for Congress: Can't you all just get along? For once?
"It's like, 'Kids, kids, kids,"' said Brenda Bissett, a lawyer from Santa Clarita, Calif., as she waited for coffee Wednesday at a Starbuck's in downtown Los Angeles. "It's just frustrating that there's no compromise ... I do it all the time."
Around the country, people of different backgrounds, incomes and political leanings say they're angry and downright disgusted by the posturing in Washington after the House rejected a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed by the Senate, then both chambers adjourned for the holidays.
If lawmakers don't act by Jan. 1, payroll taxes will jump almost $20 a week, or $1,000 a year, for a worker earning $50,000, and as much as $82 a week, or $4,272 a year, for a household with two high-paid workers. What's more, about 6 million people could lose unemployment benefits, and Medicare payments to doctors would be slashed.
"It's just another smack in our face for the working public. We just can't get ahead," said Mike Pryor, a construction worker from Aurora, Ill. "It seems like everything that Congress is doing is always against us ... I mean, I'm at a loss for words, and I just can't understand it, why they have to keep arguing."